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Tag Archives: Human Rights and Islam

Kankar: Was Kiran right or wrong in divorcing her husband?

By Farahnaz Zahidi
Published: December 9, 2013

The first slap is the worst – red, hot searing pain across the face. But what sears through is more than a slap. Something breaks inside. A feeling of helplessness, vulnerability and a shattered sense of self-worth takes over which is why, a woman’s first reflex reaction is always disbelief; shock. It is an instant realisation of the painful reality that she will never forget that moment. That she will never be able to unlearn this blow.

Sanam Baloch depicted a battered woman’s experience beautifully in the recent Hum TV serial Kankar which ended on December 6, 2013. The serial, with its protagonist ‘Kiran’ being a woman who chooses ‘honour’ over a damaging and abusive marriage, seems to have hit a raw nerve with people. Its popularity lies in the fact that this play has managed to raise some important questions.

With more and more research unearthing the fact that many Pakistani women get beaten in urban cities and a lot of them are educated women – it is not surprising then that a debate has ensued because of this play. I encountered a sample of that debate on my Facebook wall, at dinners and with close friends.

It was fascinating to me that Kiran’s character is that of a lower middle-class girl. The abusive but handsome and rich husband (played by Fahad Mustafa) claims to ‘love’ her and so is her ticket to a better, more affluent life.

In reality, a lot of urban and affluent women stay in abusive marriages, even suffering domestic violence, to maintain the social status and a standard of living.

But Kiran chooses to leave all of that behind.

She remarries a man who takes her around on a motorbike and she is busy with household chores all day. She leaves behind a life of luxury, simply because this man will potentially respect her more.

Mind you, she doesn’t leave Mr ‘I-love-you-means-I-can-beat-you’ right away. She gives him warnings and chances. It is after she miscarries when he hits her that she realises she has had enough.


But the responses I got to the question ‘did she do the right thing’ were a mix of encouraging and disturbing.

One friend said,

“Life is not a bed of roses; you have to compromise at some point. No one gets a perfect life, so one should see the positives and then decide.”

This response made me think. Compromise is a good thing, but one can only compromise so much. And is it ok to compromise on things as serious as getting beaten up without reason? This was the view of another friend, a male, and I just listened, at a loss for words.

“But the reason she was beaten up was because she was a very headstrong woman! She argued too much. Women who don’t learn to keep quiet end up suffering. See, in this serial, he is fine with his second wife because she doesn’t argue.”

Arguing to legitimise a beating? The logic somehow escaped me. However, as it turned out, in the next episode once the initial phase of the guy’s second marriage was over, he meted out the same treatment to his second wife.

As expected, Kiran was stigmatised by society and even discouraged by her sister and parents to take a divorce. But here’s the catch: To her, her ‘izzat’ (honour) is more important than just her ‘ghar’ (home). Thus, the play shows a paradigm shift. It shows that for this strong woman, honour in fact lies in NOT accepting abuses, demeaning behaviour and violence. That to her, izzat is not in staying in a marriage which has her known as Mrs Someone socially but also has her reminded of her poor family and slapped when in the privacy of her bedroom.

A friend agreed when she commented,

“It’s about whether we give more importance to money or izzat. If you give someone loads of money but no respect, is that a happy compromise?”

To this friend, it was a no brainer that Kiran did the right thing. To others, it was not.

One reason women stay on in such marriages is the often unrealistic hope that the person will change.

“You cannot change a person (completely). Many a women have wasted their lives in the hope… [while] a vicious cycle of abuse which only gets worse. And children brought up in this environment are more prone to psychological scarring,” said one friend on Facebook.

But another felt, and not without solid reasons, that everyone deserves a chance, and with counselling and effort, many couples are able to break the vicious cycle of abuse.

An interesting dynamic, as a young friend pointed out, was how this strategy of ‘controlling’ a woman via abuse is passed on like a family heirloom for generations.

“Kankar makes for such an engrossing watch because of the complexities of each character. Sikander is the product of an abusive relationship and classical conditioning plays an important role in his upbringing; if the wife argues or says anything that might remotely resemble anything as having an opinion, give her a good whack. Whereas Kiran is the quintessential headstrong girl of our times –somebody who knows her rights and does not shy away from demanding them. She is not willing to be treated as a doormat, and rightly so,” she concluded.

This friend rightly pointed out that the serial also shows the dichotomy between the earlier generation(s) and ours.

Sikander’s mother didn’t think her self-esteem was at stake when she was physically abused by his father, because she lived a life in which complacent acceptance of her secondary position and denial that this is a serious issue is a norm. Perhaps women today are more open to the idea of ending a relationship on grounds of self-respect.

Perhaps the best and most succinct comment came from a man, who believed that,

“Violence inflicted on a spouse (in particular) is never justified, unless it’s in self-defence or to protect another.”

This might be an especially good time to re-examine the debate that Kankar has managed to trigger. On the Human Rights Day that falls on December 10, 2013, a 16 day global campaign ends. This campaign started on November 25, 2013 which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Relationships are sacred. But a person’s honour is even more so, may it be a male or a female. How we choose to protect our honour on the crossroads of life depends on many factors. In the climax of the serial, one woman chooses to leave an abusive relationship, though she loves the man. The other woman chooses not to because she does not find in herself the strength to do it.

It is not about who made a better choice, but about the fact that one must make careful and informed choices. It is time our society accepted that Pakistan has a growing number of women who will make the tougher choice.

If some of us do not have the strength to do that, we should at least support those who do.

Lending a Helping Hand – A Sunnah I Aim To Follow

Journalism entered my life by default. I knew from the age of maybe 6 or 7 that I had a lot to say. As I grew up, I realized that I loved to express my thoughts through writing. I realized that whatever I said needed to have a “purpose”.

Graduating in business studies gave me a degree but somehow it did not fulfill my desire of being Me. An internship in a magazine was destined to tell me that being a writer was my calling. But, again I will say, journalism came by default. And that too development sector journalism (related to social welfare) which over the years automatically became my choice, my niche.  It seemed to fulfill my aim of “purposeful writing”. In defence of the media, unlike those who say that media is all bad and irresponsible, I sincerely believe that media also  spreads a lot of good in this world.

The Turning Point in My Life

Among the  many turning points in my life, a huge one was yet to come. A blessing, a gift. The most joyful and most rewarding, albeit at times exhausting, journey of discovering the Qur’an. In the very words of the Qur’an,    فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

“For indeed, with hardship (will be) ease.”
[Al-Quran: Ash-Sharh (The Relief), Verse 5]

The journey, I am grateful to report, Alhamdulillah continues even today, more than a decade after it began. I hope will continue till the moment I take my last breath. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know of this treasure!

In the initial stages of  re-discovering my faith, the humanitarian in me at times clashed with the “Muslim by Choice” in me. This happened maybe because in everyday conversations, I often heard people say “humanity is the best religion”. Due to no fault of theirs and my own naivety, I began to see humanitarian efforts and the attempt to adhere to my faith as the two banks of a river, flowing in a parallel fashion but never meeting. I saw them as distant, apart, even though the waters of goodness continued to splash on both of them.

And then, in the course of understanding the Qur’an, I went through Seerah (life of Rasul Allah صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم). The Seerah opened new doors to a deeper understanding of things. I understood the Qur’an better when I read more of the Seerah. I understood humans and relationships better than I had ever understood before. My relationship with the universe, the environment, with other humans and very importantly, with myself reached new heights. The disbelievers of Makkah are on record in asking for miracles to prove Rasul Allah’s (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) prophethood. I wonder if they ever really observed his life closely.

The miracle walked amongst them for 63 years, every single day of those 63 years equaled more than a century in splendour. The way Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) talked, walked, ate, slept, worshipped Allah in salaat or fought battles on the battlefront was exemplary. And ever so importantly, the way he dealt with people, his relationships, hisikhlaaq (character), his human-centred attitude and his understanding of human psyche led to more and more clarification of life as I dug deeper into its study.

The Realization
What became clearer was the meaning of this beautiful verse:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy for the worlds”
[Al-Quran: Surah Al-‘Anbya (The Prophets), Verse 107]

The mercy of Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم)! It showered, among other forms, in the form of alleviating the pain and difficulties of the down-trodden and the under-privileged. And, with Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Mercy, I understood soon that humanitarian efforts and practicing Islam are not antonyms, neither are they different banks of the same river. Rather, Islam is the river of all things good. It is the river of every Khair (goodnesss), of every Hasana. And that good must translate into efforts that remove pain and suffering of humanity. That is the teaching of Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Book, and the Seerah of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم).

The Qur’an warns us lest we forget this when it says:

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ 1

فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 2

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ 3

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 4

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ5

الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ6

وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 7

“Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray.[But] who are heedless of their prayer – those who make show [of their deeds]. And withhold [simple] assistance.”
[Al-Qur’an: Surah Al-Maun (The Small Kindness), Verse 1-7]

And then I glance at his life; the life of he who was mercy to the worlds. And I see his hand on the head of the little orphan Anas (رضى اللهُ عنها ) who is in his service for ten years. And I see examples of Rasul Allah’s (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) unending deeds of charity. And I see him preferring others over himself and walking the talk and leading by example. I see him as a caretaker of the slaves and the poor and the needy and the widows and the orphans. I see him sending humanitarian aid to Makkah at a time of famine; and this is a time when Makkah is in a state of war with Medina. 

I see him protecting the rights of the most down trodden strata of society. Women were a part of the patriarchal Arab society who had no rights. I see Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) giving women, by the command of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), the right to choose a spouse or to divorce him, and a woman the power to exercise her rights awarded by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) just like the men. Women have rights that are different but not less in any way. I see him protecting the rights of slaves. And I see him making sure that the widows and orphans get their rightful shares in inheritance. I see him making sure that the rich and powerful do not oppress the poor. And that in Islam, in the light of his Seerah, I know today that there is no discrimination or marginalization on the basis of colour or race. If there is such a thing in a Muslim society today, I know that we as Muslims are at fault, and not our religion.

Realizing that ibaadah (worship) is done in a multitude of ways, I know today that serving humanity is a part of worship, for it is one of those deeds that win Allah’s pleasure. A hadith of Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) states: Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 473].

Dawah done without sincerity and being a true well-wisher of humanity will be empty; something like a colourless flower with no beautiful smell emanating from it. Our calls towards Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) book will bounce back from ears that are blocked by hunger or disease or suffering. Dawah is powerful only when done with true sincerity, for a hadith of Rasul Allah(صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) aptly says: ‘Ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha’  – The Deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice.  [Sahih Muslim].

This realization has given me a calm; a peace Alhamdulillah. A good Muslim will, for sure, be involved with social welfare, and use it as a form of showing gratefulness to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) for His infinite mercies. Today, when I write anything as a journalist, and call attention towards a problem that causes humans like me to suffer, and want to increase awareness that may help reduce the suffering of humanity, I know that in addition to the rituals that are the foundation of my faith, this too is a form of ibaadah (worship).

About the Author
Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer, columnist and blogger. Her forte is writing about human rights, gender and health issues. She is a member of the Al Huda family of workers.

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